Handheld Scanners Go Head To Head

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European electronics giant Siemans AG will start shipping a handheld text scanner later this month, setting the stage for a mini-war with a similar device just launched by the Swedish firm C Technologies.

The Sieman's Pocket Reader is 6 x 1 inches and can store up to 20 pages of text, while the C Technologies C-Pen is about the size of a large magic marker and can store about 1,000 pages. Both are priced at $199 and targeted to students and business people who want to take notes and download them into a PC.

The Pocket Reader uses conventional scanning technology and OCR software to capture the data, said Thomas Tesluk, managing director of Tesluk Consulting, which is handling the Pocket Readers U.S. launch. The device downloads the data to a PC via a serial cable and comes with interface software.

"This is a niche product for people who go through a lot of written information," he said, adding Siemans wanted to produce a simple product that might just do one thing, but does it very well.

Siemans is already planning a second-generation Pocket Reader for release in late 2000. It will add an ability to translate text in five languages and have USB connectivity.

The company will sell the Pocket Reader through conventional retailers and online. The latter channel includes selling through a soon-to-be-launched company web site where the device will sell at its $199 suggested retail price.

The C-Pen, which is being sold online, through catalogs, and at Fry's Electronics, takes a different approach: It uses a tiny digital camera to take images of the text and then translates those images with OCR software to produce a scanned image. The C-Pen has a limited ability to write, so the consumer could add a few letters or notes to what is being scanned.

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